Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Grace-filled Tuesdays (Book Club "Meeting" #16): Third in a Four-Part Series

If you've been stopping by String of Pearls on Tuesdays lately, you might have seen Parts 1 and 2 of the "Where Real Life and Fiction Intersect" series, which I've been re-posting here at the book club.
I originally wrote this series of posts back in 2013 to explain which parts of my first novel, Finding Grace, were loosely based on my real life, and which were totally fictional.  I wrote them when this online book club was not even a twinkle in my eye yet.  But I think that they're a great fit for the Grace-filled Tuesdays "meetings" we've been having (and although they're technically not new posts, they might as well be, since they weren't seen by many readers when they were first published in my earlier days as a blogger!).

If you haven't read the first two re-posts and would like to get up to speed with the other club members, you can click here and then here.  Go ahead.  The rest of us will wait while you get caught up.

Okay then!  Now on to Part 3, which originally appeared as part of a What We're Reading Wednesday link-up post on October 16, 2013:

Recently, my husband and I were in our hometown for the funeral of his uncle, and we ran into our high school biology teacher (a woman I admired, and upon whom Grace Kelly's Latin teacher is very loosely based).  She told my husband that she'd seen my mother not long ago and that my mother had told her that my book is our story--as in the story of my husband and me and our high school romance.  Now, I don't want to give any spoilers for those of you who haven't read FG and might do so one day (fingers crossed!); but Grace Kelly and Tom Buckley's story is a far, far cry from ours.  My mother is not a liar; but as my husband told our old bio teacher, "If that's what she said, then she hasn't read it."  (I'm pretty sure this is the case, actually.)

I admit that when I set out to fashion a love interest for my heroine, I couldn't help but create a boy who resembled the one with whom I fell in love at the tender age of 15 and who has been my husband for going on 33 years now.  He's always been the only man for me, and therefore obviously my main character would be drawn to the same type!  So Tom Buckley is tall, handsome, athletic, smart, kind, funny, a good son, a devout Catholic--and he has a large space between his two front teeth.  These are all attributes he shares with my husband, who was my high school sweetheart.  Tom is patient, spending hours teaching athletically-challenged Grace how to ski; my husband did this for me when we were dating.  Tom is the high school class valedictorian; so was my husband (and the quotes from Tom's valedictory speech were taken from my husband's actual speech, with his permission).  But even with all of those similarities, as I got into the writing process Tom became a completely unique person to me (as did every other character who started out resembling someone I really knew).  And Tom is the baby in a family of 4 boys, unlike my husband, who is the second oldest in a family of 8 kids.
I wish I was more like my sweet little Grace Kelly, but trust me, I am not that good!  We do share some qualities: like Grace, I'm a bit klutzy and tend to spill things, I worry about saying the wrong thing and hurting someone's feelings, I suffer from a sometimes crippling lack of self-confidence, and I desperately want to figure out how to become a saint; but although I did grow up in an old house around the corner from the university campus in Plattsburgh, I didn't grow up with 5 older brothers.  Those 5 handsome, smart, athletic, momma-loving Kelly boys are loosely based on my own beloved sons.  And Grace's mother's tendency to favor the boys over Grace is based on a fear I used to have that, because I loved my sons so fiercely (and of course, boys was all I knew), if I'd had a daughter I might not feel the same way about her.  Having three granddaughters has set my mind at ease about that (oh, has it ever!), but when I wrote about Peggy, that's what I drew from.

There are a lot of people, incidents, and conversations in FG that were inspired by real life but were tweaked to fit my story.  After I'd been writing the book for about 3 years or so, I bought a copy of Jon Spence's Becoming Jane Austen, which I found on the Barnes & Noble clearance shelf.  Here are a couple of quotes from this incredible book that just jumped out at me, because--at the risk of putting my humble self in the same sentence with a literary giant like Austen--I thought, "Yes!  That's it!  That's what I'm doing here!"

"Jane wrote her early pieces for the amusement of her family and friends, and she put in shared jokes, teasing jibes, and allusions to real events in their lives."

"Austen is never autobiographical in the crude sense of recording what happened to her or to people she knew.  But a real situation was sometimes her starting point and developed in her imagination as something quite separate from the 'real'."

Case in point: on the day of my high school junior prom, I went over to the gym in the morning to help with last-minute decorations, and I fell backwards off a ladder.  I blacked out for just a moment, and I was left with a painful egg on the back of my head.  So Grace and I both attended our proms with eggs on our noggins, escorted by handsome gap-toothed dates.  But Grace never fell off a ladder--and if you want to know how she bumped her head, you'll have to read the book.  [Wink, wink.]
And with that little teaser, I think I'll sign off...

Until next time!  Stay tuned for Part 4, which I'll share at the next club "meeting."


  1. Readers, I know it's actually Wednesday...but these days, I always seem to be a day late and a dollar short!

  2. And you went to prom anyway?! That's dedication! I like these little insights.

    1. I did! My head was so sore. But I wasn't going to miss going to the prom with my dream date. ;)

  3. I love your prom dress! So simple and elegant and modest. :) Quite the good-looking couple.

    The Starving Inspired

    1. Oh, Iris--you are too TOO kind! My hair was such a disaster--in an awkward "growing out" phase, and my mom had tried to curl it for me, but it wasn't even all the way dry when my date showed up to take me to dinner!! And I put that red velvet bow in it--not the most sophisticated touch! But at least I had a very handsome date!

      I do love my dress, though. My mom made it for me (just like Grace's mom made hers; and she had pumps dyed to match it, just like Grace's mom did!). It was ivory lace over ivory taffeta, with a red velvet ribbon tied in the back. I loved the simplicity of that pattern. I don't know what happened to that dress. One of my younger sisters wore it for a prom years later...and I never found out where it ended up after that. Which surprises me, because I've always been so sentimental. I'd love to have it now to pass on to a granddaughter--the style is pretty timeless.

  4. Your prom dress was so sweet, Laura! I cringe when I see the 15-17 year olds in super tight, very revealing, black minis that look so sophisticated and adult but I hope that's just my old lady perception and they are still just as sweet as you were!

    1. That sort of thing worries me so much, too, Sheila--seeing young girls dressed that way. (We "old ladies" think alike!) They need to believe that it's possible to look feminine and pretty while still being modest--but unfortunately, the world often gives them a different message.